It started in the lake at the end of the summer. I noticed a series of barely perceptible ridges along my lats, like spidery scar tissue.
“Swimming,” my doctor had said in spring. We were side by side in the surgery, a colourful reproduction reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock spread on his desk. He circled the delicate web of cartilage between the two bones of my knee joint on the MRI copy. More holes than Emmental cheese. No more running, no more marathons. Time in the water instead.
An hour turned into four, and then it was every day from dawn until dusk.
Waking this morning, I gulp with dry lips, my mouth opening and closing, my voice mute. A fleeing nightmare presses on my chest like an ocean. I tuck my fingers under the silvery flaps at my side.
I slide into the lake, and it is like being born. There is an infinitesimal resistance against the surface tension when it dips with the pressure, before my fingertips cleave the clear water. Hips oscillate, transferring energy through the liquid mass. Pushing hard, muscles ripple. Faster and faster. Until my lungs are ready to burst. Until I no longer need to turn my head to breathe.
When I am at the other side of the lake, I lie on my back and sink down, watching the clouds in the sky ripple and distort as they recede. I inhale deeply, the joyous wonder of a childhood dream remembered when I realise I can breathe under water.
And I can’t come up for air.